Interview with Samantha Seneviratne

International Culinary Center Culinary Arts’06 and Bread Baking’08 graduate Samantha Seneviratne is a New York-based food writer, recipe developer, food stylist, and blogger.

She has worked as a food editor in the kitchens of Good Housekeeping, Fine Cooking and Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. Samantha has recently published her first cookbook, The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking.

-What did you do before attending ICC?

I was working as a Production Coordinator for a documentary series at Thirteen/WNET. I decided to attend culinary school in the evenings.

-What is your best memory from your time at ICC?

I did the culinary program but my heart was always in pastry. I remember Pastry Chef Alain Ridel in Level 3 and 4 used to let me bring in recipes that I was curious about and try them out during any downtime. He helped me experiment and try new things that weren’t even a part of the curriculum. He went above and beyond and I appreciate it!

Samantha Seneviratne The New Sugar and Spice

-What is your personal favorite recipe from The New Sugar and Spice?

That’s so hard! It’s like choosing your favorite child. Today I’ll say the Cardamom Cream Sugar Doughnuts are my favorite. I can’t ever get enough cardamom.

-What would you tell someone who wants to publish a cookbook?

You can do it! It takes an insane amount of hard work but anyone can do it. And, a great agent is worth her weight in gold.

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-What’s next for you?

More of the same if I’m lucky! I have my second cookbook coming out this summer called Gluten Free for Good and I would love to write another baking book.

Library Notes // Life is one long sheet of pasta

By Sara Medlicott,
ICC Librarian

Marc Vetri is 1998 alum of the ICC Art of International Bread Baking program and an Outstanding Alumni award winner of 2005. Marc is the Chef and Founder of Philadelphia’s critically acclaimed Vetri Family of Restaurants. Marc is also known for his extensive charity work and writing.

In 1998, he and his business partner, Jeff Benjamin, opened the eponymous, fine-dining restaurant, Vetri, which propelled Marc to the culinary forefront. Within two years of the restaurant’s debut, Marc was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs” and received the Philadelphia Inquirer’s highest restaurant rating.

Inspired by traditional Northern Italian osterias, Marc launched Osteria in 2007 which now boasts two locations. Amis is a Roman style trattoria, which was named one of the top 10 places for pasta in the US by Bon Appétit, features share plates of hand rolled pasta and house cured meats.

Marc Vetri at International Culinary Center FCI

Following these successes, Marc opened Alla Spina (Italian for “from the tap”) in 2012. An Italian gastro pub, the restaurant boasts 20 beers on tap including both Italian and local brews as well as pub fare. The following year, the group further expanded by opening Pizzeria Vertis which was named one of the Top 25 Best New Restaurants by GQ Magazine. This was followed by the opening of Lo Speedo, a casual eatery with an emphasis on flame cooked food in October 2014.

But Marc is not content with being a wildly successful chef. He is also passionate about giving back to his community and educating children on healthy eating. The Vetri Foundation, founded in 2009, works on several initiatives with a goal of helping the children of Philadelphia to develop healthy eating habits.

Eatiquette is a revolution for school lunch. The Vetri Foundation helps public schools to plan and execute healthy seasonal meals using fresh ingredients. Students sit at small round tables, serve each other and assist with clean up. They learn about portion control and meal preparation.

Another initiative, My Daughter’s Kitchen provides weekly after-school cooking classes to students. For middle school and high school students inspired to continue in the culinary world, the Vetri Foundation provides a thirteen-week Culinary Arts training program hosted at the public library.

Marc Vetri also writes. He is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and has published three cookbooks. Marc released Il Viaggio di Vetri: A Culinary Journey in 2008 and Rustic Italian Food in 2011.

Marc Vetri pasta cookbook

Il Viaggio includes recipes for appetizers, pasta, fish, meat and more, along with wine pairings. The book is also interspersed with Marc’s own stories and recollections of Italy. Rustic Italian Food is what Marc calls “A return to real cooking”, which includes a wide range of bread recipes, pasta, salumi, pickles and preserves among others all focused on the theme.

His most recent book, Mastering Pasta: the Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi and Risotto was published just this past March. Marc opens with, “Sometimes I feel like my life is one long sheet of pasta,” and that certainly shows in Mastering Pasta. Much more than a collection of recipes, it includes his philosophy of life and the kitchen, a lengthy explanation of variations in flour and the anatomy of wheat and, of course, recipes for preparing pasta flour and instructions for shaping the final product.

Mastering Pasta

Marc decided to do the book after seeing Dr. Steven Jones of the bread lab speak on flour and wheat. He then heard similar sentiments echoed throughout Northern Italy while researching the book – fresh wheat is essential to good pasta. Marc discovered that wheat starts to lose its flavor after 48 hours. He now has a mill in his restaurant Vetri, and they are milling their own wheat.

The book also includes “Pasta Swaps” suggesting which shapes will go well with similar sauce and ingredient sets. While the book is probably ideal for a serious home cook with some pasta making experience, the background and explanations are so thorough yet easy to follow that even a complete novice could use Mastering Pasta to get started.

All three of Marcs books are available at the ICC library. Stop by and have a look!

Library Notes // Top Cookbooks of 2015

By Sara Medlicott,
ICC Librarian

One of the best parts about being a culinary librarian is getting the chance to spend time with all the great new cookbooks. I’m getting to know our staff and students well enough that as I make a new acquisition I can guess who will be the first to check it out. Everyone is looking for something different in a cookbook whether it’s new recipes, a great story or pure inspiration. Cookbooks also make great gifts. You can wrap one in an apron, pair it with recommended kitchen tools or wrap it in a basket with the necessary ingredients for a recipe. Here are my top picks for the year, and judging by the circulation records and the ICC community suggestions.

For the adventurous home cook

Do you know someone who is constantly venturing to the outer boroughs to taste cuisine from distant lands? They prefer Siracha, Valentina and sesame oil over ketchup, mustard and olive oil and they probably love Mind of a Chef. These cookbooks are for adventurous home cooks or anyone who is stuck in a culinary rut ready to try something new.

Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook
You might already be familiar with Maangchi from her channel on YouTube, you will find the book has the same tone and feel; though of course it includes much more content. It’s as if a good friend is teaching you how to cook. All the content is conversational and easy to follow.

Mamushka: A Cookbook by Olia Hercules
Olia includes recipes from all over Eastern Europe. This is a great book for someone who likes an involved project in the kitchen, whether it is baking bread, making sweet conserves or fermentation, Olia covers it all.

The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island by Cathy Erway
I have been a huge fan of Cathy ever since I read The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove (check it out!) so I was thrilled to see she had published a cookbook. This book includes a little bit of everything, great information and history as well as all you need to get started cooking Taiwanese food.

Best Cookbooks of 2015

For the foodie who loves a story

I find that there are two camps about wordy cookbooks, people either love the backstory or they just want recipes and photos.

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl
Ruth has a lot of fans already, just seeing her name on the cover is enough for most people. Fans of Garlic and Sapphires and Tender at the Bone will be pleased with the memoir aspect of the book, but unlike her other memoirs, My Kitchen Year features recipes much more prominently. New Yorkers will also love all her interpretations of city favorites and the anecdotes about the changing city interwoven in her narrative.

For the lover of classics with a twist

Two of my favorite cookbooks this year also happened to be written by ICC alumni. These selections focus on classic, traditional recipes but not in any way you are used to! Fresh new takes on pasta and deserts, perfect for those who crave comfort food but want a new interpretation.

Mastering Pasta by Marc Vetri is perfect for anyone who loves pasta. This book contains enough science, history and detail for people who really geek out in the kitchen but clear, concise instructions and plenty of pictures for newbies.

The New Sugar and Spice by Samantha Seneviratne includes many of the classics you are used to, like rice pudding, gingerbread and brownies but all with a twist. Instead of categorizing the recipes by type or season, they are divided by spice from cardamom to ginger to pepper. If you are getting bored with your baking repertoire, this book is the perfect way to spice it up – literally.

Book Gifts 2015 Food

For the dinner party hostess

This book is for that perfect hostess, looking to try something new. Inspired by a supper club, it’s all about the essentials of an excellent dinner party; great food, great drinks and great company.

The Groundnut Cookbook by Duval Timothy, Jacob Fodio Todd and Folayemi Brown tells the story of the supper club they started in London in 2012 with a goal of bringing the traditions and flavors of Africa to Britian. The book is divided into menus, and each section includes not just the recipes but the story of how each menu developed.

Don’t see what you’re looking for? Stop by the library and our librarian, Sara Medlicott, can give you a personalized recommendation. All selections are available in the library and available for purchase very close to school in the McNally Jackson bookstore at 52 Prince St.

Interview with Gary Chan from Bibble & Sip

My name is Gary Chan, I’m the founder & main proprietor of Bibble & Sip, and a 2014 graduate of ICC’s Pastry Techniques Program.

Last week was Bibble & Sip’s 1-year anniversary. Hard to believe it’s been a whole year already. Coming up with the cafe name took some efforts, but at one point Bibble & Sip just fell into place and stuck. “Bibble” is an archaic word that means to eat indulgently; “sip” implies cultured enjoyment. I wanted my cafe to be a casual and fancy experience at the same time, a relaxed environment offering sophisticated flavors.

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– What did you do before attending ICC?

I graduated with a degree in Communication Arts, aiming to take part in the family electronics/film business. But very soon I realized it wasn’t a choice of passion. So I detoured from that prescribed route and started my own design company. After many years of hard work that didn’t quite pay off, I reevaluated my life and decided that design was just another safe route devised from the foundation of my former education. If I were to completely abandon what I should logically be doing with my life, where would my passion take me? And that’s how I ended up in ICC.

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– What is your best memory from ICC?

There are many great memories, but if I must name the foremost, I would say the train ride home each day. That feeling is so nostalgic, where after a long and tiring day, my body would collapse on the train seat and everything I learned and did during the day got processed through my head. And the best part was, I would be holding the end product of the day, still warm on my lap, with its aroma filling the surrounding, and I just couldn’t wait to share it with my family.

– What inspired you to open Bibble & Sip?

Baking has always been a passion. Running my own business is a personal endeavor. With all the knowledge learned from ICC, I had so many flavor and recipe ideas that needed physical shaping. Thanks to my supportive family, teachers, and mentors (Chef Michael Zebrowski, Chef Michael Brock), those ideas not only took shape, but also shaped my dream cafe.

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– What was the greatest challenge in opening your business?

The greatest challenge was overcoming the initial discouragement of an open but empty cafe. The first week when we opened, we pretty much watched skeptical passers-by day after day. All those pastry items (and hard work!) were thrown away at the end of the day, that heartache is indescribable. But we’re quite lucky that business picked up very quickly.

– What is the most rewarding part of running Bibble & Sip?

The most rewarding is seeing our regular customers come back time after time. It gives me so much confidence and gratitude to see the familiar faces. I love the feeling of looking down the line and knowing exactly what the next person is about to order. Of course, it’s also a different type of rewarding feeling to see excited new visitors snapping photos. It means they’re here from good word of mouth.

– Describe a day in your life.

I live about 2 minutes away from the cafe, so my day pretty much starts, progresses, and ends within the few hundred feet radius. I go in early in the morning, check that the kitchen prep is on its way. I make sure all the shifts of the day are covered. Once the cafe door opens, it’s all business with a short lunch break. By now everyone is familiar with the flow of the day so all the tasks are pretty routine. We have a wonderful team that works together seamlessly. My work day ends after the cafe closes, and all the cleaning work is done, which is late, but at least I’m only 2 minutes from home.

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– What is your personal favorite drink and food at Bibble & Sip?

My personal favorite drink is just a simple cappuccino. My favorite food is the recently introduced Black Sesame Mousse Hazelnut Chocolate Cake. It’s been a successful new item so far. I’m glad the customers like it as much as I do.

– How do you come up with the new menu items?

It takes me quite some time to push out a new menu item. There is a long journey between the time an idea is formed and when a finished product finally gets put into the display case. It takes experimenting and re-experimenting, changes after changes, giving up then being picked back up again, tasting and reevaluating to finally be satisfactory.

It’s hard to say where inspirations come from, though the basis is generally French techniques and Asian flavors. But some of our best selling items are actually very personal recipes from home. My wife plays a huge role in the filtering process of what ends up on the menu. She was the one that gave me the confidence to sell our cream puffs despite it being such a simple item that I used to make for her as treats.

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– What would you tell someone who is looking into starting a career or business in pastry?

I would say, make sure you’re ready to devote 95% of your life into this business. Brush aside all other priorities for this commitment, and make sure that people around you understand. There are so many details that I wish someone had told me about, but every business differs. I mean things like which brand appliance is better than another. Or warnings like, never use this design company for your display case. It was one of my biggest investments I’ve made that turned into my currently biggest headache with all its malfunctions and the manufacturer’s negligence.

– What are your dreams for the future?

My dream isn’t very vast. I’m just constantly reminding myself not to take the current progress for granted, and that I still need to work hard to maintain and improve the good qualities that brought us the well acceptance. If fortunate enough, perhaps Bibble & Sip will one day have other locations!

Bibble & Sip
Bakery cafe
253 W 51 St New York, NY 10019
(646) 649-5116
WebsiteFacebookInstagram

Michelin 2016 announced star recipients

Michelin, the Paris-based publisher of gastronomic guides, has released its annual list of starred ratings for New York City, San Francisco and Chicago restaurants. The guide’s reviewers (commonly called “inspectors”) anonymously award restaurants with either one star, two stars, or three stars. The stars are awarded as follows:

  • One star: A good place to stop on your journey, indicating a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.
  • Two stars: A restaurant worth a detour, indicating excellent cuisine and skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality
  • Three stars: A restaurant worth a special journey, indicating exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients.

Congratulations to all the Michelin 2016 winners! We’re excited to congratulate the following ICC’s alumni and faculty who made us incredibly proud this year:

Three Stars (“Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”)

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Manresa // David Kinch

320 Village Ln.
Los Gatos, CA

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Saison // Josh Skenes

178 Townsend St.
San Francisco, CA

Two Stars (“Excellent cuisine, worth a detour”)

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Momofuku Ko // David Chang

8 Extra Pl.
New York, NY

One Star (“A very good restaurant in its category”)

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Blue Hill // Dan Barber

75 Washington Pl.
New York, NY

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Sepia // Andrew Zimmerman

123 N. Jefferson St.
Chicago, IL

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Public // Dan Rafalin

210 Elizabeth St.
New York, NY

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Meadowsweet // Polo Dobkin

149 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY

ICC Alum Hosts Wine Business + Tasting Afternoon

By Rachel Lintott
ICC’s Associate Wine Director
Certified Sommelier

Each with a flute of pink bubbles in hand, ICC’s Intensive Sommelier Training students all sat down at the long, wooden table in CooperVino’s private dining room/education salon. “I’m going to ask you all to guess what this is. You’ll never guess what it is,” exclaimed owner Michele Snock as she graciously greeted the class. A 2009 Intensive Sommelier Training graduate herself, Snock is now the owner of the recently opened wine bar and retail space in the new downtown Cupertino.

You see, it’s nearly impossible for a group of wine geeks NOT to challenge one another when it comes to blind tasting. It’s just too much fun, plus you might find yourself (as we did) sipping on something quite delicious.

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Snock, a member of ICC’s Professional Advisory Committee (a group of professionals that help guide the school on industry trends, program improvements, etc.) invited the class to come in for a lesson on opening a business. Specifically, the path she took from corporate Silicon Valley, to becoming a Certified Sommelier, to opening and running a small wine business and what she’s learned along the way.

A few (not all) tips from Michele on opening a successful wine bar:

  • Love customer service and be gracious.
  • You don’t have to know everything. When hiring your staff, look for people with qualities and knowledge that you don’t have. Let them help you and learn from them.
  • You need extensive wine knowledge (ahem, I know where you can get that!).
  • Differentiate yourself.

After her presentation and ample discussion on the business of wine, a flight of Italian whites was presented. The students are at the beginning of the program — France — so it was a great glimpse at what’s to come. A floral 2014 Ippolito 1845 Ciro Bianco (100% Greco Bianco from Calabria), a refreshing 2014 Poggio del Gorleri Vermentino (from Liguria), and an exotic orange wine: 2009 Primosic Ribolla di Oslavia (100% Ribolla Gialla from Collio).

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And, the sparkling rose? Well the predominant minerality led the students to the Old World, but once France was crossed off the list there were some far-fetched guesses. Finally, she revealed to us that the wine was from Sicily — Nerello-Mascalese made in the metodo classico: 2011 Murgo Brut Rosé.

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Snock’s dedication and perseverance are apparent at CooperVino. Carefully selected wines, ambience, customer service and education intertwine to create an enjoyable and fun experience. Thank you Michele, for taking the time to support our students by sharing your knowledge, experience, hospitality and wine!

– Rachel

Q&A with Tam Trinh of Sugarlips Cakes

Originally from California, Tam realized at an early age that she had a great passion for both art and baking. With her desire to bring both of these passions together, she found her ultimate passion in patisserie. Sugarlips Cakes was started in September 2012, when Tam moved to The Netherlands, for love, and started the company with her (now) husband, Luc.

Current job: Owner and Cake Artist at Sugarlips Cakes (Utrecht, the Netherlands)

Hometown: Newport Beach, California

Course of study: Classic Pastry Arts

Graduation year: 2011

One food/beverage you can’t live without: Shockingly, not a dessert, though it comes in a very close second. But I cannot live without red meat!

Describe your culinary POV in three words: Less is more.

Best meal of all time: FG Restaurant (Rotterdam, NL), 2 Michelin Stars. The dessert was so inspiring that I ended up ordering a second dessert just to taste more of their creative combinations. I asked them to go as crazy as possible and surprise me, and in the end it included vanilla ice cream with caramelized macadamia nuts, blue label olive oil, and liver. It was absolutely delicious and so inventive!

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What were you doing before you attended International Culinary Center?

I was actually studying studio arts at the University of California, Irvine. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do in life, but I did it to make my parents happy and to have a back-up. I always knew I wanted to do something more towards a creative path, and pushed myself to graduate a year early so I could immediately enroll in ICC.

How did you choose your specialty?

Though I loved everything that I learned in my time at ICC, when we got to the cake curriculum, I knew I was at home. I absolutely loved making and decorating cakes, and once Ron Ben-Israel came to teach our class, I was sure this was what I wanted to do with my life. I have always loved details and small handwork, and this was where I could incorporate that into what I love.

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Why did you choose International Culinary Center?

I did a lot of research on different culinary schools and ICC kept coming up as the best and most well rounded. I really knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in school anymore, and the fact that ICC had an intensive course, sounded perfect to me. The caliber of chefs also greatly appealed to me, as everyone seemed to come from a very experienced background. The last big draw was that it was located right in the heart of New York City!

How did you enjoy attending school in New York City? Did you find the energy of the city and its culinary scene enhanced your experience?

New York is truly the best place to learn about food. There are so many influences and you can literally find anything you want in the city. The energy gives you a certain drive which makes you feel like you want to do even more and perform even better and my time in NY got even better with the experience of all the chefs at school and their tips on where to find the best pastries and restaurants. I really think that is you can survive this industry in New York, you should be able to blossom anywhere else.

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Did you have goals upon graduation?

I always knew that I wanted to own my own cake shop. I didn’t know how it would be possible or when/where, but I did know I needed more experience first. I interned at Sugar Flower Cake Shop in New York and then further went on to work in California at It’s All About the Cake. When my long distance relationship with my then boyfriend (now husband) took me all the way to The Netherlands, I decided it was time to go for it!

How did International Culinary Center contribute to achieving those goals?

The knowledge I gained about pastries made me very well rounded and the training I received taught me to work in an organized and quick way. I now own my own cake shop in the Netherlands with my husband, and after being open for only two years we were awarded with the Dutch Wedding Award for Best Wedding Cake Specialist in the Netherlands! Now, in our third year we have gathered a great team around us and will be creating 200 wedding cakes this year. We also have very big plans for the upcoming year, but can’t quite disclose that information yet!

Find Sugarlips Cakes online:

Website // Instagram // Facebook

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Grad Meets Grill

Photo via FoodNetwork.com

ICC alumna Angie Mar is the new “Chopped Grill Masters” grand champion!

She found her competitive voice during the tournament and let her food do the talking for her, cooking by relying on her gut despite at times hearing comments from the judges that would have discouraged less confident chefs. Certain basket ingredients almost threw her for a loop, like the rattlesnake in the appetizer round and the kokoretsi in the entree round, but she didn’t let that dictate the way things would turn out. Going into the dessert round alongside Stan, she was more determined than ever to show off her control of flavor in her final dish. And in the end she earned the title of Grand Champion, leaving with the $50,000 prize money and knowing that her plates got her to the finish line.

Read Angie’s interview on the FoodNetwork Blog.

More than 50 ICC alumni have competed on Chopped over the years

ICC graduates come well-prepared for the challenges presented by Food Network’s Chopped kitchen. Chopped is a cooking competition show where four chefs have seconds to plan and 30 minutes to cook an amazing course with the basket of mystery ingredients given to them moments before the clock starts ticking! Course by course, the chefs will be “chopped” from the competition. Chopped is a game of passion, expertise and skill — and in the end, only one chef will survive the Chopping Block.

Participating ICC graduates included Antonia Lofaso, Chris Nirschel, Kat Ploszaj, Andre Marrero, Elisabeth Weinberg, Helen Park, Hugh Mangum, Jason Khaytin, Palak Patel, Rachel Willen, Ruth Cimaroli, Vandy Vanderwarker, Kyle Bernstein, Zoe Feigenbaum, and many more.

Watch the latest episodes at FoodNetwork.com

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Photo via Food Fix Kitchen
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Photo via ChefPalakPatel.com

My Journey from ICC to Momofuku

By Aaron Hutcherson
2012 Professional Culinary Arts Graduate

Hutcherson GFJ

My goal upon graduating from the Professional Culinary Arts program at the International Culinary Center was to gain a position in food media. As such, I accepted an internship with Food Arts Magazine to gain experience and try to get my foot in the door. After about 10 weeks my internship ended and I had no job prospects in that field, so I decided to join full time as a cook at Northern Spy Food Co., where I had been working weekends during my internship.  Throughout that time, I continued to search for what I thought to be my dream job. Alas, after a year of looking and no such luck I decided to take a pseudo break from life by baking at Camp Ballibay, a summer camp for Fine and Performing Arts in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I figured it would give me the time and environment to clear my head and re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. (Plus I thought it would be beneficial to experience nature after living in New York City for four years.)

As I was approaching the end of my sabbatical from urban life, I came across a posting on Good Food Jobs for an operations position at Momofuku. Working for such a well-regarded restaurant group seemed like a one-in-a-million opportunity, but reading through the job description and desired requirements, I was unsure if I was qualified enough to be considered. Every couple of days I would revisit the job posting to mull the idea over. After about two weeks of this—and noticing that the position was still unfilled—I decided to cast my doubts aside and submit my cover letter and resumé.

A few interviews and several months later, here I am as a member of the Momofuku family. I work in the “operations” department, which really means I do a little bit of everything. A few examples of some of my tasks have included purchasing restaurant equipment, formatting menus for several of our restaurants, analyzing sales data, helping manage technology systems, and much, much more. Since it can be so varied, I sometimes have a hard time describing what I do whenever posed the question, but that diversity is what helps keep things interesting—that and a good group of co-workers.

And, to answer the question I’m sure you’re all wondering—yes, I do have access to a regular supply of Milk Bar treats.

Follow Aaron’s culinary journey on The Hungry Hutch.

The Meatball Shop’s Keys to Success

Michael Chernow, the restaurateur behind The Meatball Shop, wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do with his life. In high school he was a jazz tubist. (No really.)  Then he spent two years at Hunter College before realizing it wasn’t a good fit. So he left for California, chasing the dream so many others had before him: to become an actor. That fizzled.

He quickly returned to New York City, where he landed a front-of-house job at Frank, an iconic lower east side Italian spot. It’s there that things started to click.

“I learned I had a passion for people,” says Chernow. “If you stick me in a room of people, I’ll learn how to acclimate.”

Chernow spent years at Frank learning the restaurant business and building up a team of people who believed in his potential. When he was ready to pitch his own restaurant concept, he already had financial and mental supporters. That was his first smart move.

His second? Going into business with his best friend, Daniel Holzman, which he admits doesn’t always work out for everyone.

“Everybody’s an asshole,” Chernow says, pointing to specific people in the crowd and laughing. “But I’d rather be in business with an asshole that I trust than one who will screw me over.”

But he started a restaurant with with a friend who spent years at Le Bernardin. Cue tasty food.

The first problem they ran into was deciding on a concept. Chernow put himself through the culinary and restaurant management programs at the International Culinary Center, where he developed an idea for an artisanal cheeseburger joint that won him an award at school. But, it didn’t win over his best friend, who wanted to create a Byzantine tasting menu. (“A What?” was basically this crowd’s reaction.)

Their ideas didn’t mesh well. However, they knew their restaurant would be located in the Lower East Side, so they studied their demographic – drunk, budding adults partying until 4 a.m. They saw an audience who needed fast, cheap food at ungodly hours. So they settled on the idea of meatballs. Smart move number three: Matching their restaurant concept to the location and demographic.

When Chernow enrolled in the restaurant management program at the Culinary Center, he learned how to write a business plan and open his own restaurant, a template he used for The Meatball Shop. (Smart move number four.)

“You need a business plan. If you don’t have one it’s like driving across country without a map,” explains Chernow.

It took about a month for Holzman and Chernow to customize Chernow’s original business plan for The Meatball Shop. Chernow stresses the importance of the executive summary and the financials.

“Investors aren’t interested in details. They want to read a strong executive summary, which should only be a page, and then your financials. If those two match up, maybe they’ll sign up.”

One of the keys to Chernow’s success was building a key team of investors during his earlier career at Frank.

“Seventy-five percent of our original investors are from Frank,” says Chernow. “Our first meeting was with three investors, and we walked away with $75,000. From there it was no turning back.”

It took $390,000 to get the restaurant up and running. They opened in 2010 with 30 employees and no management costs. Today they have 400 employees and soon-to-be five restaurants.

“Public relations is a huge element in business, and our PR agency took a risk on us. They saw how hard we worked and believed in our food,” says Chernow. “That was over 3 years ago, and yesterday I was on The Today Show.”

It was over fancy cocktails that Chernow divulged all these secrets to his alma mater’s crowd. He was the first guinea pig in the new series, “Drinks with Dorothy,” a networking series where successful food industry leaders will share how they made it in an often unforgiving industry.

The event made a splash, especially after Chernow told us to stick around because he brought a sampling of his favorite meatballs. There’s really no better way to network, is there?